Montrio Bistro in Monterey – Don’t Fear the Reaper

Montrio SalmonChills, confusion, despair, butterflies, who shot Mr Burns, shaking, why is it so cold here.  Where the hell are we?  Where are the butterflies?

“Mom, what’s wrong with dad?  Why is he sitting in the corner, on the floor like that?”

“He just found out the restaurant he picked for tonight is #1 on Trip Advisor.  Just give him a moment and avoid eye contact.  It happened before.”

I know that voice.  Mommy?  More chills, hungry, it was Maggie, Maggie shot Mr Burns.  How many R’s in Monterey.  Where are the freakin butterflies.  She says they come in November, but I cant stay that long.  I need to visit Big Sur tomorrow.  What the hell is Big Sur anyway.  So hungry.

“Mom, he is drooling now”

“Don’t touch him!  That means he is getting better”

Ok, feeling better.  Off we go to the #1 as of this writing and dine with fellow tourists.  We are after all tourists as well, and do touristy things like ride cable cars, walk slow, and visit aquariums.  How bad can this be.  I considered a place called Passionfish, another long timer, near our Butterfly-less Grove, but opted to stick to the script.  This vacation is going just great.  Stick to the script.

Montrio PopocornIt’s just as I imagined.  Packed with visitors from all over the world.  I hear French, Italian, New Jersian… chills slowly creeping back.  But hey, we quickly get a table and.. crayons.  You would think that crayons will make the matter worse, but in this classy looking, mural filled joint its actually quite refreshing.  Imagine getting crayons at Aquavit.  I’m back to self, and in ordering mode.  The menu breathes Best of America.  California America!  There’s salmon, there’s chicken, there’s short rib.  Its a new revamped menu I’m told by a {gulp} British chef, and just about everything sounds orderable.  They even have a “Bites” section which suggests this check inflating trend is now nation wide.

We start with what else, popcorn.  They come cheesy, mixed with bacon bits.  The waitress goes “May I?”  “May I what, feed them to me?”  No, she picks up the cup and spills all the popcorn on the plate so we could easily pick them up with the chopsticks that come with it.  How fun.  Mac and Cheese was cheesy alright, and quite good.  But the polenta with mixed mushrooms, one of my favorite dishes on the planet fell a little short.  Leave that to the Italians.  Dungeness Crab cakes tastes like crab cakes should.  Wish there were more of that though.  Perhaps the fact that its not quite Dungeness Crab season here is to blame.  The “Crispy Calamari” comes shaped like chicken tenders, aided by a tangy Romesco (I heart Romesco) and house made hot sauce that came in a nose drop bottle.  And then came the Mussels.Montrio Calamari

The Mussels are paragraph worthy.  We are a mussels family, enjoying our east coast mainly PEI (thats Price Edward Island for the German tourists) mussels for years.  Yes, I know eating PEI mussels in NYC and in the source is like eating two different kinds of mussels.  But here on the west coast, chefs in the know, even British, are loving the mussels coming out of Penn Cove in Whidbey Island, Washington.  These mussels, cooked with a mild red curry broth, were some of the fullest, sweetest mussels I ever had.

The mains here did not disappoint either.  The last time I ordered salmon and chicken together was 25 years ago when my source of income was tips from pizza deliveries.  The chicken was fine for a #1.  The salmon (top) I get isnt meant to be eaten by itself.  A spoonful of salmon, creamy risotto, Nduja Sauce, and fried brussel sprouts leaves was, I’m using it, divine!  And I couldnt find much wrong with that short rib.  Damn its super tenderness, and juiciness!  A proper finish with a sticky toffee pudding and a waitress recommended bread pudding that is particularly popular here (great for NY standards, average in New Orleans)

Crisis overblown.  We enjoyed this one enormously.  Kudos to the chef, the waitress, and crayon makers.  This did not feel like a tourist trap, but a local established that cares about the product, and what their customer eats.

Montrio Bistro
414 Calle Principal, Monterey, CA

Montrio Mussels Montrio Crab Cakes Montrio Mac n Cheese Montrio Chicken Montrio Short Rib Montrio Bread Pudding Montrio sticky toffee

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Categories: California | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Montrio Bistro in Monterey – Don’t Fear the Reaper

  1. SimonNZ

    I’ve been looking forward to some more from your west coast trip, we are tracing see if your steps in 5 weeks.

    This place looks remarkable, a top TA restaurant that is a restaurant not an ice cream or chocolate shop. AND it sounds really good. AND they look after kids. AND the prices weren’t too horrendous, almost reasonable. Definitely added to our list!

    Just for giggles, are you going to do a TA review?

    • TA review?.. Neh. But I write on the TA forum (probably where you found me). Hope you enjoy Montrio. Let me know if there’s anything else you need to know quicker. Have lunch or brunch at Big Sur Bakery if the timing is right

  2. I was just in Monterey and had the hardest time finding a place to eat. Settled on Casanova in Carmel and Big Sur Bakery in Big Sur. Hilarious post! Will have to try this place next time.

  3. Tanya

    Great opening scenario for setting the mood! Lol. Food looks good too.

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